Author Interview with Daphne Oz

Affectionately called the Fresh Face of Healthy Living by her co-hosts of The Chew, Daphne Oz, has somehow found time to write another cookbook amidst a television career and two small children. The Happy Cook: 125 Recipes for Eating Every Day Like It's the Weekend is truly impressive. I am a fan of international flavors and Daphne has packed global dishes in this collection of easy, quick, healthy and most importantly delicious meals for the whole family.  

Daphne was gracious enough to answer a few questions for our Eat Your Book members. Be sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win 1 of 15 prize packages that include an autographed book and a notebook from the author as well as more information on this title. 

What is your definition of a "happy" cook?

A happy cook is someone who has fun with her food and makes her kitchen her kingdom. My original happy cooks are my mother and grandmother: they never let cooking meals for their families feel like a chore. Instead, they made it a liberty, a time to explore and create and make a mess and relax. Their food is as much about their ability to be creative on the fly as it is about keeping it simple, thoughtful, and above all, delicious!

This is your third cookbook. They each represent a stage in your life's journey - college life, progressing into a career and marriage and now parenthood. How much has your cooking and eating changed over that time?

At its core, the way I cook and eat has not changed much. I am always after that perfect intersection of happy and healthy. I make smart substitutions when I can to make my food more wholesome and healthy for our family, but I am always thinking of my taste buds first: if it's not delicious, I don't care if it's healthy. What has changed significantly in the way I cook is that I am focused on maximum results for minimum effort now more than ever. I am focused on simple food that feels simply elevated. Anytime you eat your own food should feel like a celebration, that's what makes it worth taking the time to cook at home. With that in mind, even easy meals have to feel thoughtful and like a little bit of an adventure on the plate. That's also how I'm hoping to teach our kids to love foods that love them back - I always have them fooling around in the kitchen with me. Sometimes it works like a charm and they're dying to eat whatever daddy and I are eating. And some nights, they just want cereal and milk. I try not to stress about it too much.

You are one of the hosts on The Chew, you've written this new book and you have two young children so presumably you are very busy - what are your tips for making time for healthy shopping and cooking?

I do a lot of my dry goods shopping in bulk online so it ships right to me from places like Thrive Market and Amazon. I am pretty terrible at shopping for a family of 4 - somehow I always overbuy. I am working on only shopping for a day or 2 of meals at a time, because it seems to be the best way to ensure I use up everything I buy and it also means everything is a bit fresher. I definitely find it's easier to make healthy choices when I have lots of tempting healthy choices on hand. Of course, I definitely let myself 'indulge for a good cause,' too - like homemade cookies whenever my daughter wants to bake, which is most nights.

The Chew won a Daytime Emmy Award earlier this year (for the second year in a row) - congratulations! Are there any food trends or techniques you have covered on the show that are now included in your home cooking?

It's been a very exciting ride with The Chew, and such an honor to be recognized at the Emmy Awards. We all say we get paid to eat delicious food and hang out with our friends - it's crazy! One trick was a method for reheating cold pizza that changed our lives: put it in a cold, non-stick pan over medium heat uncovered. In about 90 seconds, you have perfectly crisp crust and melting cheese - it might even be better than fresh!

You are of Turkish heritage and your husband is Serbian. What influences from those cuisines are in the new book?

My mother in law Nada's baby back ribs are featured in the book! They're not necessarily Serbian, but they are the easiest and juiciest ribs ever! I feature a lot of my Turkish heritage in the book - from Lamb-Stuffed Peppers to Pistachio Cakes with Rose-Cardamom Icing - because Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines to me represent an incredibly elegant and simple way to create bright, bold meals. With their focus on fresh herbs, crunchy nuts, and sweet dried fruits, or olive oil, lemon and salt as finishing touches, they inherently understand how to take home cooking and elevate it to something that is a celebration of flavor without requiring much additional effort or time. That's how I love to cook.

What is your go-to recipe in the book when you need to get a healthy satisfying dinner on the table quickly?

The Italian Style Turkey Meatballs are a favorite!! They are the perfect lean, high-protein meal or snack for me and John after a workout, and the kids love them on their own, crumbled into spaghetti sauce, or dipped in ketchup!

Even if we eat healthily we still sometimes need sweet treats. What are your tips for keeping desserts healthy (or at least not actually unhealthy)?

The Chewy Coconut-Chocolate Chip Cookies have half the butter and sugar of the regular recipe and are somehow even more delicious. I don't understand! I think it's all about keeping enough of the real deal - whether that's butter, sugar, eggs, flour - and swapping in more nutritious alternatives when you can. The Better Brownies are a perfect example of this: you actually get denser, fudgier, richer brownies by getting rid of the flour and using black bean flour and pureed sweet potato instead - double win!

Has your family cooking changed since the children arrived or are you trying to get the kids to eat the same food as you and your husband? If the latter, how have you managed it (a question from me and many other mothers out there!)?

Haha, I hear you! My grandmother told me not to make forcing my kids to eat a battle of wills where they're resisting me as much as they are resisting eating my food. I do my best to show them by example what their father and I like to eat so they ultimately want to join in and have what we're having. I also get my kids in the kitchen cooking with me as much as possible: John in his high chair and Philo on a stool beside me so she can get involved. But I also recognize when some nights I am just not going to win, so I let them eat the cereal and milk they want and move on to the next day. Parents have to fight the good fight! But there's something to be said for making it less of a fight and more of a privilege: that old thing about catching more flies with honey comes to mind.

 

 

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